When we Ferrets sat down and discussed this series I knew instantly what I wanted to talk about for my post. And can you get much more classic than the oldest (surviving) epic poem in the English language?
I’ve read many classics over the years, and surprisingly few of them were under the dreaded label of ‘Required Reading’ though that may be in part due to my unorthodox school life. (That may also be why I often didn’t know I was reading a classic or something that might be ‘required reading’ material.) It may also be because I dove into them early.
Beowulf remains a stand-out among them in my memory for a number of reasons, though it wasn’t the first classic I read. Continue reading
I didn’t actually read anything of Doyle’s until college. I technically majored in Creative Writing, but ended up taking a lot of coursework in British Victorian literature. (If I remember right, I took every single class that was offered on the subject during my stay at college.) So, clearly, I already like the form and rhythm of Victorian lit.
I was assigned to read a Sherlock Holmes short story in one of the classes. I can’t remember which class—I think maybe the Gods and Monsters one? Or maybe it was just the short story class? It kind of doesn’t matter because I also can’t remember which story it was that was actually assigned. I’m pretty sure it was the Five Orange Pips one. Anyway, I found myself really enjoying it. Like, more than I thought I would. I liked it so much that I went out and bought the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes (two massive volumes, actually), and read through the entire thing in about a month.
Mind you, this was during and between assignments when I was averaging reading an assigned 120k of words a week and writing reports on them. Basically a long novel every single week, split up between poetry and short stories and actual novels. So squeezing in another, half a million words or something of Sherlock Holmes is kind of a testament to how much I freaking liked it.
I started reading many of the classics well before they were required because, honestly, I just wanted to know the stories for myself. I first read Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet both when I was 10 years old. Granted I read them with a giant copy of the Oxford English Dictionary sitting next to me at the ready and for the Shakespeare half I read all of the footnotes in the big volume my dad owned, but the stories were important enough to me they were worth the effort. It so paid off when high school came around.
One of my absolute favorites was actually, surprisingly, never required, but I did end up using it for a school project. Continue reading
I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time because of the 2005 movie. It was one of the classics I’d missed during high school, and I’d never bothered to pick it up because I figured it would be similar to Wuthering Heights (which, by all accounts, sounded like something that would drive me crazy to try and read) or Rebecca (which was good, but depressing).
However, I watched the movie because it had been nominated for an Oscar and I was trying to watch all the Oscar-nominated movies before the awards were given out. And I was stunned by how much I loved it. The next time I was at the used bookstore, I found a copy of Pride and Prejudice, and I immediately picked it up.
And I’m glad I did, because it made Jane Austen one of my favorite writers.
My introduction to the classics was completely voluntary. I was homeschooled, and my mother decided not to require a literature course from me at all to graduate high school. (To be fair, the course teaching me how to balance a checkbook was probably far more useful, and a skill I am very grateful for now.)
There were a few reasons to her decision about literature. First, I read a lot on my own. I read encyclopedias for fun, even, and it was clear even at a young age that my critical thinking skills were not lacking. Until puberty hit, at least. Second, there was a lot going on in my home life as a child, much of it not good (though not horrendously bad, compared to many other people). We learned the important things, and sometimes there wasn’t time or energy left for anything else. Third, I don’t think my mother had a good introduction or experience with literature during her own school days – either grade school, or college – and she probably was at a loss of how to teach it to me or my siblings. I know one of her most memorable moments was in one of her literature classes in college, when she had to read The Two Towers. But she hadn’t read The Fellowship of the Ring, and so I’m sure you can imagine that was more than a little… confusing.
I read a few classics in my school days (The Scarlet Letter, and several of Jane Austen’s works, for the most part) but didn’t start branching out into the ones that had always caught my eye (the ones I sometimes set back because I didn’t know if my mom would let me read them because she might think they were too scary) until I was in college.
My ‘rave’ for today is one of those. Continue reading